White Sox pitcher Michael Kopech opts out of the 2020 season for 'personal reasons'

CHICAGO — Michael Kopech, the top pitching prospect in the Chicago White Sox organization, has decided not to play this season, the team announced Friday.

Kopech’s decision is for “personal reasons,” according to a team spokesman.

“We recognize that reaching this decision is incredibly difficult for any competitive athlete, and our organization is understanding and supportive,” Sox general manager Rick Hahn said in a statement. “We will work with Michael to assure his development continues throughout 2020, and we look forward to welcoming him back into our clubhouse for the 2021 season.”

Hahn alluded to the personal matters when he announced Kopech was excused from the team when camp started July 3. Hahn said at the time that Kopech was healthy.

Kopech, 24, missed all of 2019 while recovering from Tommy John surgery. He made one Cactus League start this spring before baseball shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. He was electric in that one inning on March 10 against the Texas Rangers in Glendale, Ariz., with six of his 11 pitches being clocked at 100-101 mph.

Kopech is the No. 3 prospect in the organization and No. 20 in all of baseball, according to The site also ranks him as the No. 4 right-handed pitching prospect in baseball.

A first-round pick of the Boston Red Sox (No. 33 overall) in the 2014 draft, Kopech was traded to the White Sox along with third baseman Yoan Moncada, outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe and pitcher Victor Diaz for ace Chris Sale on Dec. 6, 2016.

Kopech made four starts for the White Sox in 2018 after they promoted him from Triple-A Charlotte in August. He went 1-1 with a 5.02 ERA, allowing eight runs and 20 hits in 14 1/3 innings, with 15 strikeouts and two walks.

Kopech allowed only one run in 11 innings over his first three big league starts but gave up seven runs on nine hits, including four home runs, in 3 1/3 innings on Sept. 5. He was diagnosed with a torn right ulnar collateral ligament the next day and underwent surgery Sept. 18.

The rehab followed, with the one spring inning against the Rangers serving as a potential preview of things to come this season.

Instead, his return will have to wait until 2021.

Starting pitching depth was one area the team addressed in the offseason, signing free agents Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez. And Carlos Rodon is back to the mix, returning from Tommy John surgery that ended his 2019 season after seven starts. Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease and Reynaldo Lopez were part of the rotation last season.

The White Sox also placed Moncada and pitcher Jose Ruiz on the 10-day injured list. The Sox did not give a specific reason for the roster moves.

Moncada was another big part of the Sale trade. Moncada slashed .315/.367/.548 with 34 doubles, five triples, 25 home runs, 79 RBIs, 83 runs and 10 stolen bases in 132 games in 2019.

He improved his average 80 points from 2018, the fourth-best jump in franchise history, while cutting his strikeouts from 217 to 154 and finished third in the American League in average behind teammate Tim Anderson (.335) and the YankeesDJ LeMahieu (.327).

Leury Garcia, Danny Mendick, Andrew Vaughn and Yermin Mercedes have started at third base during two summer camp intrasquad games.


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